How Do You Maintain a Healthy Voice?
Maintaining a healthy voice is one of the most important requirements of being a professional voice actor. While many outsiders who are unfamiliar with voice acting probably most associate the profession with the crisp, resonant voices they hear as part of a finished recording, there is a lot of hard work and sacrifices that occur behind the scenes to ensure that those voices remain in tip-top shape. Just like any professional singer, a voice actor’s vocal health is both their instrument and the foundation of their business.
Some steps that voice actors must take to maintain a healthy voice are inherently lifestyle changes. This may involve everything from being more selective about one’s diet and what one consumes in general, to implementing regular vocal rest, to establishing a regimented vocal warm up routine. While a change to one’s daily habits may not initially appear to have a huge, enduring impact, certain daily actions may actually be wearing down a voice actor’s vocal cords over an extended period of time.
What you consume and how you use your voice during a period when you’re in the midst of carrying out a big recording, like providing narration for an audiobook or an animated film, will also probably be more strict than what you consume and how you use your voice during a period when you aren’t planning to record.
There are other precautions that voice actors are most likely to put into practice as soon as they notice that they may be developing a hoarse voice or getting sick. It may sound like a quip, but it’s important to listen to the sound of your voice and what your body is communicating to you. If you notice that your vocal health is declining, this article includes several tips that you can count on to improve and maintain a healthy voice.
Here are some suggestions for how to preserve your vocal cords and maintain a healthy voice:
Drink plenty of water
H2O keeps your vocal cords lubricated, so anytime you’re recording, you ought to have a glass of water nearby. Drinking water not only keeps you hydrated and your voice sounding fresh, but it also prevents headaches. You should try to drink at least eight glasses, or 64 ounces, of water in a day.
It’s also never a bad idea to supplement your water intake with foods that naturally contain large amounts of water—including fruit like apples, watermelon, melons, cucumbers, etc.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol should be consumed in moderation—and definitely not on the same day that you’re planning to record a vocal performance. Alcohol is known to irritate the mucous membranes that line your throat, and they can both dry your vocal folds and/or larynx.
Take ‘vocal naps’ throughout the day
When you’re exerting your voice for a recording, or just speaking for an extended period of time—whether you’re delivering a presentation or rehearsing a script—you should really take regular breaks throughout the day to keep your voice from deteriorating. Instead of chatting with friends in your downtime, go somewhere quiet and give your voice a rest. Vocal naps are like the voice actor’s equivalent of rest days for bodybuilders.
Professional voice actor Jesse Adam imparts his tips for preserving his vocal cords while working from home: “Get out of your studio/booth/closet/blanket fort and go do something different for an hour or two. The auditions will still be there when you get back and you’ll be in a better headspace to read ‘em.”
Be careful not to misuse your voice
When you scream, shout, and speak loudly, it puts strain on your vocal cords. Be conscious of how often you’re raising your voice, and try your best to keep the moments when you are yelling or amplifying your voice to a bare minimum. Actors who work in live theater are often tasked with projecting their voice for hours at a time, but one benefit of recording your voice in a studio is that you’re not required to strain your voice by amplifying it when you’re speaking into a microphone, since the microphone will pick up any softer sounds and nuances in your vocal performance.
Inhaling smoke of any kind irritates your vocal cords, and can even lead to permanent vocal damage. Everything that you breathe in passes over your vocal cords, so smoking cigarettes, vaping, or even breathing in pollutants and particles of dust may have some impact on your vocal cords.
Clear your throat less often
While you may clear your throat as a natural reflex, doing this can actually be harmful to your voice. When you’re faced with the urge to clear your throat, it may be better to swallow, or take a sip of water. Clearing your throat is like slamming your vocal cords together, so when you do it too often, you run the risk of making your voice hoarse.
Listen to your voice
Familiarize yourself with the signs of strained vocal cords. When your voice becomes hoarse or scratchy, it’s a clear warning sign that you should refrain from speaking and take some time to recover. Strained vocal cords will sometimes feel like a pinching sensation at the back of your throat.
The important thing is that you do not push through a recording when you’re afflicted with a hoarse voice. Take some time to rest and recover. It typically takes a few days of rest before your voice returns to normal. You’ll thank yourself later.
If your hoarseness hasn’t subsided after two or three weeks, then you should see your doctor.
Find ways to manage your stress levels
You may not expect it, but a voice actor’s vocal performance can actually be heavily impacted by their stress levels. When stress builds up over time, it can manifest in physical symptoms, including muscle tension in one’s jaw, digestive issues, or trouble getting a good night’s sleep.
Many professional voice actors who work from home suggest taking periodic breaks from their home studio setups in order to get some fresh air. “We are in the isolation booth and behind a computer for so many hours a day,” says professional voice actor Kristy Reed. “Sometimes a quiet walk is all it takes to center my thoughts, recharge my energy, and bring a brightness to my voice.”
Humidify your home
Being immersed in a dry environment can affect the sound of your voice. Especially if you’re based in a dry climate, or during wintertime, breathing properly humidified air can go a long way to keep your voice in a healthy condition. Humidifying your home is a wise idea, especially if that’s where you’re doing the bulk of your recording.
Do some vocal warmups before recording
Warming up your voice will ensure that you’re equipped to deliver your best performance when you step up to a microphone. There are a number of key vocal warm ups that you ought to integrate into your repertoire, from whole body stretches to tongue twisters.
A group of professional voice actors, the Voices Insiders, were eager to share their favorite vocal exercises with us.
Vocal Remedies For Singers
When you have a sore throat, phlegm up to your ears, or your vocal cords are entirely tired out, what can you do to make your voice sound (and perform) as usual?
When it comes to treating physical ailments that affect your voice, what are your favorite remedies?
Susan Eichhorn Young, a widely respected Canadian singing teacher and musical theatre coach now based in New York City, has suggested trying out this remedy when suffering from congestion. First, boil some sliced ginger root with lemon rinds in water on the stove for a few hours. After a few hours have passed, strain the liquid, and then consume the water while it is still a fairly warm temperature. This trick can work wonders.
During her time at Western University, Susan Eichhorn Young also recommended using raspberry-flavored zinc lozenges to help combat a sore throat. Again, a tried and true method that has a delightful taste.
For minor irritations, one of the best practices is to consume a warm cup of lemon herbal tea (don’t add sugar), get some vocal rest, and last but not least, settle in for a good night’s sleep. These remedies may do the trick, especially when fatigue is the primary source of the vocal irritation. Of course, one of the best roads to take when maintaining the health of your instrument is prevention.
Do you have any tried and true remedies to share? Let us know in the comments!
Vocal Health Is Important
Maintaining a healthy voice isn’t merely important for professionals who spend their days recording vocal performances and responding to voice over casting calls. Singers, teachers, lawyers, salespeople, public speakers, and a number of people employed in other professions all rely on their vocal health in their day-to-day work, and are thus often the first to develop vocal problems. About 18 million adults in the United States deal with vocal disorders, many of which can be countered by implementing the above strategies to maintain vocal health.
Whether you’re making your first forays into the world of voice acting, or you’re a seasoned professional—or you work in an entirely different field altogether—taking the steps to maintain good vocal health is an essential precaution that will ensure you can always accomplish your pursuits to the best of your ability.
Keep those vocal cords in top form and sign up for a Voices talent account to audition for voice over jobs in order to showcase your talent to the world.